The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 2 – You’re Sabotaging Yourself
“Muscles don’t just grow the way a growing child does. Muscles are stubborn. You need to give them a reason to grow.”
It might be hard to admit for some but it’s true. “Wait, what? Sabotaging myself? How? I workout three days a week, eat above my caloric needs, am physically active and eat clean most of the days. There’s no sabotage there.”
Looking at the obvious aspects, you might be right. You seem to be quite the dedicated person, doing what you believe is just right for gaining slabs of muscle in no time. In fact, most people still think that the best way to gain muscle consists of: workout + eat (+ protein shake(s)) + sleep, repeat. It’s what conventional wisdom, broscience and even most motivational bodybuilding quotes teach us. It’s just that it’s not that simple – it’s what you do in-between (and during) those times of the day that makes the biggest difference. Let me clarify what I mean by that:
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Let’s be honest. There are at least a few ways we’ve all self-sabotaged ourselves in the past. It’s either those occassions where you just know you’ve messed up, or it’s subtle, perhaps even unbeknownst to you sabotaging behaviours scattered throughout your day. Whatever it is, it’s self-sabotage and it just has to stop if you really want to move on and get results – in life and in the gym.
So, what are some of these self-sabotaging behaviours I’m talking about? Let’s find out!
The Ways You’re Sabotaging Yourself, Risking Gains
1. Weekend Indulgences
Congrats! You’ve actually made it to the weekend sticking to a healthy, anti-inflammatory and higher fat diet (I sure hope that’s the way you eat…). Great! So, now it’s the weekend. Time to relax, right?
You wake up Saturday morning, rather hungry and perhaps still a bit tired from the tough week. You open the fridge or cupboard and happen to find some really tasty, really sugar-laden and inflammation-promoting food still left in the house (oh oh, that is not supposed to be in the house, actually). Perhaps some Oreos, ice cream, chocolate …. or even healthier but sugar-filled snacks – who really knows. You know you shouldn’t be but you’ve been really good the whole week and this one box won’t make a difference. The bad stuff will pass. So you sit down and enjoy. For the time eating you feel really awesome but just moments after you’re done, you know you screwed up.
It’s these occasional indulgences that really add up over time and become an issue, for (lean) gains and your health. Eating these foods will result in inflammation in your body, destroying your recovery, wreaking havoc on your energy and metabolism and creating a snowball effect that ends up as fat very quickly.
People think when gaining muscle, they can get away with anything. And sure, they can get away with a lot more than perhaps sedentary people. But it’s not simply calories in, calories out. The effect the food has on the body needs to be considered for optimal results in looks and health. Blood sugar balance, inflammation, digestion, allergies. They all come into play here. If you want to gain muscle the clever way and not be stuck with a host of health issues ten years down the road, please do yourself a favour and think: food quality over quantity.
These weekend indulgences keep us from making progress and can eventually halt it, as recovery is greatly affected by how well we are able to manage inflammation in our body. So increasing inflammation on the most crucial days for muscle growth (the rest days) will leave us feeling weak and not properly recovered. The next gym session will suck and you will not beat your previous workout’s performance, eventually plateauing for good. Bad luck, you deserve it.
2. Thinking Your Workout is Enough (or: Just Move More!)
You are probably not aware of it but you might be part of what I call an “athletic couch potato”. You go to the gym three days a week for an hour or so whilst either sitting in the office or in the classroom for 7-9 hours straight. The same position for the entire time through (except for the occasional stretch of tiredness or toilet break in between). Wow, your muscles are probably getting a pretty damn good workout that whole time.
Sitting, guys, is not just the new smoking but also an absolute catabolic disaster and recovery-enemy number one.
Think about it. Your muscles require movement, blood flow and some sort of stimulation to function properly. If they stay in the same position for a few hours straight, it kills their primary function. They get sluggish, weak and inflexible. They waste away, the same a broken arm does when you can’t move it for months. Why do you think almost every adult these days has back pain? Exactly.
I can promise you, you will certainly not be in a position to improve your performance and prevent plateaus if you spend 20 hours (including sleeping) a day not moving a single muscle. Yet, that’s what most of us do.
Humans need to move and our body wants to move. Movement removes excess waste products from the body (stimulates lymphatic system), reduces post workout soreness, provides low-level endurance and even increases testosterone (Yes indeed! See for yourself here. Would you believe that something as stupid as a daily 30-60 minute daily walk would be beneficial for testosterone production? I was stunned, too.
By the way, any movement will do. Walking, wood-cutting, lawn mowing, cleaning the house (your girlfriend/wife can thank me later), etc. Just get moving more. You could also insert 5 minute breaks every 30 minutes at work and do some basic jumps, knee lunges, squats, push ups and so on. As long as you don’t spend prolonged hours in a row sitting (or standing) in the same position.
So work some movement into your day-to-day life and I promise you, you’ll experience improved ROM, recovery and strength in your workouts.
3. Thinking a Mindless Gym Routine is Enough (or: Make your workouts intense and trackable)
Let me tell you this straight. If you are entering the gym thinking you can have a nice, relaxing chill after a hard day, please leave. Immediately. You are not doing yourself any favor. If you don’t want to gain muscle, fine, have your chilled session to get the joints moving. But if you are serious about building a ripped physique, you better make sure you a) get that intensity up! and b) have a solid routine and know what the hell you’re even doing in the gym.
You need a solid action plan, knowing exactly which exercise you will do when, how long you’ll rest and how many sets and reps you need to do to beat your previous best. Write the stuff down. Track it. You can’t expect to miraculously gain muscle if, for triceps pulldowns, you rest for 1 minute the one day and for 3 minutes the next. Your body won’t be forced to improve! There needs to be a routine, a rhythm.
Only change one metric from workout to workout. The best and most trackable is either weight or reps. If you’ve been using the same exercise for a muscle group for a few weeks, try changing that up.
But please don’t go into a workout without knowing what you’re supposed to do or improve on that day.
To sum things up, it’s quite simple really.
Try to avoid crazy food indulgences. Rather have a piece of dark chocolate every day instead of running after Oreos all weekend. Don’t fool yourself, bro!
Just get moving more. One 30 minute walk each day in the morning can do wonders for you. Also, definitely break up your work time into 30 minutes work, 5 minutes movement.
Friggin’ work your ass off in the gym. Go in there with an Invincible Mindset, knowing you’ll give it your all.
Now I’m asking you. Are you guilty of any of these “sabotages”? How did you get over them? What did you change that made the biggest difference? I’d love to hear your comment and thoughts.